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Colony Collapse Disorder


Summary: Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder, if not mitigated, could potentially become an expensive dilemma in the future.  Honeybee's account for 15 billion dollars worth added crop value.

Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder, if not mitigated, could potentially become an expensive dilemma in the future.  Honeybee's account for 15 billion dollars worth added crop value.

Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon that many of us are not acquainted with yet.  It is a mysterious malady affecting feral and domestic honeybees alike. CCD is defined as when worker bees suddenly disappear from a beehive. Due to the honeybee social structure, worker bees are crucial to the survival of a colony. So, without worker bees the colony ultimately dies. It would be like having a heart and a vascular system with no blood. An empty vessel, if you will.

So, why does this matter to us?  Most of us do not spend our days thinking about the workings of the web of life and the integral part honeybee's play. First, honeybees make honey, an important food nutrient. But, they do so much more. For instance, did you know that honeybees pollination account for 15 billion in added crop value? 15 Billion, and these guys work for free. I don't care where you outsource, your not going to beat that value. Plus, these little guys aren't just pollinating pretty flowers. They are working on delicious plants that give us almonds, fruits, and vegetables. Interesting fact! According to the United States Department of Agriculture, œabout one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefit from honey bee pollination. Do you know what happens when demand increases, and supply decreases? Prices skyrocket! I rest my case. We need honeybees a lot more than they need us.

What is the cause of CCD and how do we stop, or at least, slow it down? There are many hypothesized causes for CCD ranging from parasites to climate change, and even cell phones. According to researchers at Penn State, one possible explanation for CCD could be œextraordinary stress. That's right! It's not easy being a honeybee. Get this! According to the Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research & Extension Consortium, it takes 556 worker bees flying 35,584 miles (over 3 times around the world) to produce 1 pound of honey!" Believe it or not, though, that is not the cause of the stress. No, the cause of the stress stems from poor nutrition and/or drought. So, if domesticated bees are dying from poor nutrition, then why can't beekeepers somehow alter the bee's diet? Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Another possible reason for the honeybee exodus could be the virus known as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). This, like the "extraordinary stress", is found in almost all the hives with CCD. This leads to still another enemy of the honeybee; the Varroa Mite (vampire mite). These nasty insects are dangerous to honeybees because they carry IAPV, and something known as the Deformed Wing Virus. While the Varroa Mite is a serious threat to the honeybee, they have not been found in all the dying colonies. Furthermore, scientists believe that IAPV may only be an indicator that the colony is afflicted with CCD, but not actually the cause of CCD.

So, now you see what we're up against. Without proper identification of causation, a remedy cannot be derived. The variables seem to be numerous. We have explored disease, nutrition and parasites as probable culprits, but we must also consider factors such as pesticides, fungus, antibiotics and genetically modified crops. This past spring there were enough bees in supply to successfully pollinate our crops, but if CCD continues to spread, there could be serious consequences.

So, next time you see a little honeybee, show some restraint with the newspaper in your hand. Live and let live, or in this case, live and let pollinate.



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